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The clock has been turned back 12 months and Arsenal are in crisis after their worst league start in their history. They now sit top of the Premier League after opening their campaign with three straight wins for the first time since 2004.
Saturday’s 3-0 success at Bournemouth was a remarkable turnaround, taking them top of the table for the first time in six years and leaving them as the only side in the league still with a 100 per cent record this season.
Three games, three wins, nine goals, two conceded.
Compare that to the start of last season – Arsenal were rock bottom after losing their first three games without scoring – and you can see why everyone at the club is smiling now.
Arteta’s case was heavily scrutinized a year ago, but he was booed by fans as he left the pitch at the Vitality Stadium on Saturday.
“Our emotional state is very different,” admitted the Arsenal manager when asked to compare the feeling at the club now to 12 months ago.
“You can make a difference individually and then publicly with everyone around the club because losing football matches is very negative, no matter how you play or what the context is.
“Obviously, everyone is happy [now]everyone is enjoying it and we have to preserve the moment, be humble and continue to improve.”
Arteta insisted after Saturday’s game that there was no point in going top of the Premier League.
“It’s only three games,” he said. “It doesn’t mean anything.
“It means we’ve been able to win three games, score goals, keep clean sheets and the team is playing and performing well.”
Arteta is certainly right to say that at this stage of the season there is little to climb.
But Arsenal’s start to the current campaign has shown just how different things are at the club now than they were 12 months ago.
Watch the team thumped 5-0 at Manchester City on 28 August 2021, a defeat that sent Arteta’s side to their first international bottom of the Premier League without a point or a goal.
Only three players from that starting XI – Bukayo Saka, Granit Xhaka and Martin Odegaard – faced Bournemouth on Saturday evening.
The change was dramatic.
Arsenal were a mess a year ago. They have only had 7 shots on target in the opening three games, 15 this season.
On the other hand, they faced a staggering 55 shots on goal (18 on target), a number that has been reduced to 22 (five on target) this year.
The improvement on both sides of the pitch was stark.
Gabriel Jesus transformed an attack that was largely lethargic and one-dimensional in 2021/22 into an attack that now looks unrecognizable, while Oleksandr Zinchenko added a lot of quality to the squad.
Both have made a dramatic impact following their move from Manchester City, with William Saliba’s incredible form since returning from his loan deal with Marseille matched by two clean sheets in three games.
“He’s incredible.” Zinchenko said when discussing Saliba after Saturday’s win at Bournemouth. “Looks like this guy has a lot of experience in his bag, but he’s still very young.
“Fingers crossed, there’s an incredible centre-back.”
Jesus, Zinchenko and Saliba have added plenty of quality to Arsenal’s starting XI in the opening weeks of the campaign, and we’re still waiting to see what Fabio Vieira’s £30m summer addition will bring to the midfield.
With at least one more signing expected before the end of the transfer window, Arsenal’s squad now looks very strong and determined – with Arteta having plenty of options to turn to if necessary.
However, it is not only on the field that everything has changed in “Arsenal”.
Off the pitch, the club is now more united than it has been in years.
Arteta and technical director Edu have repeatedly asked fans to trust the process that began when the Spaniard was appointed three years ago. And that patience is now being rewarded.
The squad has been completely overhauled, removing big names and big winners from previous eras.
The division that existed behind the scenes has been resolved, with Arteta working hard to bring everyone together – from the first team players to the coaching staff and staff around the training ground.
Club sources describe the recent pre-season campaign as a great success.
It was Arteta’s first regular pre-season since joining the club. After the Covid measures were finally lifted, he was able to work with his players without restrictions.
Arsenal quickly hit their priority targets at the start of the summer, so they have had plenty of time to catch up before the start of the Premier League.
Jesus and Vieira were signed before the US tour, while Zinchenko put pen to paper while it was underway and Arsenal flew him to Florida so he could be a part of it.
Arteta used this trip across the Atlantic to build a close bond in the team.
He had the players switch tables during team meals every day so they could sit next to different teammates.
And one night, Arteta brought the entire tour party, the players and all the club staff together for a barbecue. All the tables mingled and games were played throughout the evening to bring everyone together.
Another summer celebration was held at London Colney last week, with staff from the Hale End academy and Highbury House offices all brought to the training ground for a training session involving the men’s and women’s teams.
There was barbecue and paella, and both Arteta and Jonas Eidevall (head coach of the women’s team) took to the stage for a Q&A.
Since returning to Arsenal from Manchester City in 2019, Arteta has sought to unite a club he found torn apart by the difficult years before his arrival.
It hasn’t been a quick process, but few would argue that Arsenal as a club are as united as they have been for a year now – something that perfectly encapsulates the support the team has received from fans since its inception. of the season.
The Emirates were the best example of this, stepping up to support Saliba after his own goal against Leicester. It would have been unthinkable not so long ago that the away fans at Bournemouth on Saturday chanted Granit Xhaka’s name.
Arsenal’s support now reflects the team in many ways. In recent years, it has been strengthened by a noticeably younger fan base, both at home and away.
The atmosphere is as good as it’s been in a long time and it’s something that Arteta has been driving since he was appointed as Unai Emery’s replacement.
Despite his excellent start to the season, one thing he knows is that he still has a long way to go.
“We can still be better,” he said after the win at Bournemouth.
“Now it’s Monday, it’s about getting back into training and getting better at the other things we have to do well. The focus is on Fulham [this coming Saturday].”
Arsenal’s improvement under Arteta has been clear and those dark days of 12 months ago seem long gone now.
However, there is still much work to be done.
The process will progress, but it is not yet complete.